Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002325, Wed, 3 Sep 1997 11:56:19 -0700

VN Bibliography
From: Eric Roman <eroman@garnet.cla.SC.EDU>

I recently came across this book. Since I don't recall seeing this
book mentioned on the list--but that does not mean it wasn't mentioned
before my memory being what it is--I think it worth mentioning because of
the Wilson connection.

Brightman, Carol, ed. & introduction. Between Friends: The Correspondence
of Hannah Arendt & Mary McCarthy 1949-75 (New York, San Diego, London:
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1995).
ISBN 0-15-100112-X
JC263.A69A3 1994
320.5'092--dc20 93-47425

Nabokov,Vladimir pp 133,135-6, 166

From Paris, France
June 1, 1962
To Hannah Arendt

".... Just reviews, one long one of Vladimir Nabokov's new book [_Pale
Fire_] that's coming out this week's _New Republic_ & a shorter one of
Salinger [_Franny & Zooey_] for _The Observer_. the last I did in two days
& it is very viperish & mean & gave me no pleasure, except to get it out of
the way, but I really fell in love with the Nabokov book & worked very hard
on it, with pure joy. I'm very curious to know what you'll think of the book
if you read it, to me it's one of the gems of this century, absolutely new,
though there are flashes of _Lolita_,_Pnin_, and all his other books in it.
Among other things, it is terribly funny, about the academic life, and
terribly sad too, It seems to me to have more of America and of the 'new'
civilization in it than anything I've ever read, and it's the first book I
know to turn this new weird new civilization into a work of art, as though
he'd engraved it all on the head of a pin, like the Lord's Prayer. It's a
terrific puzzle or game and requires several players to work it out, which
again seems fantastically appropriate to this age of groupiness. I ran
around in Paris, to the library, to friends who knew Russian, to friends who
knew German, to friends who knew chess, and enlisted, miraculously, their
interest, as though they caught fire from the book too, at second. This
contagiousness is one of its qualities. And it's all quite different from
working on _Finnegans Wake_, say, because when you look up all the
references there you're simply back with the text, but with the Nabokov
book everything you're led to is beautiful in itself--rare birds and
butterflies, the movements of the stars, curious chess situations, certain
passages from Pope and Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Goethe.... I'm far
from having elucidated all of it and I'm dying to hear what other people
will find that I've missed. So far, the few reviews I've seen have been
absolutely stupid and missed just about everything--in a most predictable
way, as though Nabokov, laughing, had written the reviewers' reviews. Well,
enough of that.(133)"
referring to McCarthy's "A Bolt from the blue" _New Republic_ June
4, 1962

To McCarthy
June 7th, 1962
[New York]
She mentions that she had just read the McCarthy's _Pale Fire_ review.

"The Nabokov article--very very good, excellent as a matter of fact, very
ingenious and puzzling--but I have not read the book. I am going to get it
soon.... There is something in N. which I greatly dislike. As though he
wanted to show you how intelligent he is. And as though he thinks of
himself in terms of 'more intelligent than.' There is something vulgar in
his refinement, and I am a bit allergic against this kind of vulgarity
because I know it so well, know so many people cursed with it. But perhaps
this is no longer true here. Let me see. I know only one book of his which
I truly admire, and that is the long essay on Gogol.(135-6)"

To H. Arendt
Paris, France
June 9th, 1964
"A queer book was sent me recently--a satirical novel about the Germans and
a Jew by someone called Florence Helitzer. Harper's is going to publish it,
the title is, _Hans, Who Goes There?_ It impressed meat first, as a curious
mixture of Nabokov and Gunther [sic] Grass; the hero is a sort of Jewish
Humbert Humbert recruited by the CIA to spy on a West German tycoon. There
are some clever ideas in it, and yet I feel there's something wrong.
Something I can't put my finger on. I haven't finished it yet, but I begin
to suspect that it's a Zionist tract of some sort. If so, it is
disingenuous, because the whole basis of a _Lolita__ or a _Tin Drum_ is a
wild disengagment and sad mockery; the author cannot have a pious message.
It might be worth your look at it. (166)"

There are also mentions of Nicholas Nabokov pp 36, 38n,83,140

Unfortunately, there are no mentions of Arendt's reaction to her reading of
_Pale Fire_--ie if she read it in its entirety. E.R.